Declaration of Grande Riviere after LALIT Diego Garcia Conference

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The LALIT-organized international conference for action to close the military base on Diego Garcia, and to get the last colony of Africa, the British Indian Ocean Territory, dismantled, and for the right of all Chagos-born people to return to the islands of their birth, was a great success. We have pleasure in publishing the “Declaration of Grande Riviere” which came out of it, followed by a news item on the three-day International Conference (and the National Forum held on the Monday), and on its immediate effects.


The Conference on Diego Garcia & Chagos held at Grande Riviere, Port Louis, Mauritius, bringing together 150 participants from 30 October to 2 November 2010, reached consensus that we will keep the following struggles firmly bound together, never bartering one against the other:

- the struggle for the complete decolonization of the Republic of Mauritius, the dismantling of the British Indian Ocean Territories colony, and the re-unification of the country,
- the struggle for the closing down of the US military base on Diego Garcia, and its ecological clean-up by the US,
- the struggle for the right of return and full reparations for all Chagossians,

And that to advance these aims, and given that there are some actions that can be set in motion only by the State of Mauritius,

we commit ourselves to putting pressure on the Mauritian State towards its acting in practice so as:

o To organize a formal State visit on the Trochetia ship to Diego Garcia and the whole of Chagos, which is part of Mauritian territory defined as such by the Constitution, and that the State delegation should include the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition;
o To enter a case in the UN International Court of Justice at the Hague through at once inscribing a Resolution to this precise effect on the agenda for the next UN General Assembly due in 2011, and continuing to ensure that the Resolution is not later withdrawn from the agenda;
o To make a formal demand for UN inspections under the Pelindaba Treaty, as soon as the mechanism for doing so comes into force later this year,
o To use all other UN bodies and procedures possible for actions that indicate a clear statement of Mauritian sovereignty over Chagos, and that expose the danger the military base represents.

And, at the same time, in the context of the present debate on electoral reform and Constitutional amendment, and in response to imperialist and private capitalist interests clearly targeting Mauritian Islands and land, to work towards giving concrete expression to the Chagossians’ participation in the democratic set-up of the country; and to amend the Constitution so as to outlaw the setting up of any military bases on any Mauritian territory in future;

That we will work towards the setting up of a Scientific Centre that gathers testimony about Chagos, collects documentation on Chagos, so that the history and culture of Chagos are kept alive;

And that, in the context of these demands, we call on the President of the Republic, the last living witness to the pre-Independence negotiations held at Lancaster House to come forward to give public testimony;

And that in order to advance the three causes stated just following the first paragraph above, as well as the specific demands then enumerated in this Declaration, we commit ourselves to building up broad support on a national and international level,

And we delegate six people, the undersigned, to present this Declaration of Grande Rivière to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and also to make the Declaration public.

Kishore Mundil
Ragini Kistnasamy
Alain Ah-Vee
Rela Andre
Vishnu Jugdhurry
Lindsey Collen

3 November, 2010

 LALIT Conference on Diego Garcia Precipitates Reactions

The LALIT Conference on Diego Garcia and Chagos which ended on 2 November and which called for the Mauritian State to take action has had an immediate effect. Even before the Conference Declaration has been submitted to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but after press reports and radio bulletins on the Conference, Mauritian Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam announced, the day after the Conference ended, that the Government is no longer going to just hold “talks”. He accused the UK Government of being “liars”, “hypocrites” and “tricksters”. He has announced that the Mauritian Government will call for IAEA inspections under the Pelindaba Treaty, as the Conference Declaration called for it to do, and has announced a form of Regional Assembly for Chagos similar to the one for Rodrigues, another demand of the Conference. He for the first time, and using language used in the Conference, accused the British Government of a “crime against humanity” for the forced deportation of the Chagossians. Speaking of the “Marine Protected Area” that the British Government has implemented in Chagos but excluding Diego Garcia, the Prime Minister said, “Diego Garcia houses nuclear submarines, and there are warships there. When a nuclear bomb explodes one day, that’s OK by them. War ships are there polluting the sea in the region, that’s also OK by them. Then they say they will protect fishes and corals. Fish and coral are more important to them than people. We will not accept this!”

When Alain Ah-Vee was speaking on a Top FM Radio Broadcast on the same day that the Prime Minister was speaking (3 November), it became clear from the phone-in comments that the LALIT Conference’s proposal for the Head of State and Prime Minister to go to Chagos on the Trochetia has captured the imagination of the public. Everyone thinks it normal that the representatives of the Government can go to all parts of a State’s territory.

The LALIT International Conference lasted four days, and included a National Forum, and saw the participation of just over 200 people, according to the registration figures. The plenary sessions saw rich contributions and profound analyses from the floor, and this made the Conference exceptional.

The former President of the Republic, Mr. Cassam Uteem, in a strongly worded opening speech, called for bold action to complete the de-colonization of the country, to get the base closed down, and to ensure the right to return of all Chagossians to all the Islands of a united Mauritius. “We are not at war with Iraq. We are not at war with Afghanistan,” he said, “so our territory cannot be used for acts of war on these countries.” He said that the guilty parties were first and foremost, the USA administration. Secondly, their partner, the UK State. There are those who are “accomplices”, he added. And he appealed to the President of the Republic, the only surviving eye witness to the pre-Independence Lancaster House talks, to come forward to give testimony. And there are the victims, the people living on the Chagos Islands, forcibly removed, and the Mauritian people, whose territory was illegally broken up prior to Independence.

At the National Forum, Foreign Affairs Minister, Arvind Boolell, said the Government intended to act on the question of the Pelindaba Treaty, and was, in general, to step up political, diplomatic and legal pressures. The Opposition Leader who had originally accepted to speak, later withdrew his acceptation. When invited to send an MMM speaker instead, the leader refused. Lindsey Collen, speaking for LALIT, at the National Forum presided by barrister Jean-Claude Bibi and held in the Municipal Council Chamber in Port Louis, said that the 42 years of the Mauritian State pleading, even begging, for “talks” and “negotiations” had on that very day, 1 November, with the coming into action of the Marine Protected Area, been publicly declared bankrupt. “The strategy will have to change,” she said. “It is impossible to continue without attacking the very existence of the military base there,” she argued.

Ram Seegobin, speaking for LALIT, on the first day of the International Conference outlined all the huge obstacles and hurdles that need to be addressed during this struggle. Ragini Kistnasamy spoke on the history of the struggle of the Chagossian and Mauritian people against the USA-UK crime, while Rajni Lallah spoke on the important role of women in this struggle. Alain Ah-Vee, LALIT’s first speaker, cogently argued for the strategic necessity to maintain all the three elements of the struggle in a coherent articulation, and never to barter any one against any other.

Of the two invited “animateur”, Kishore Mundil, who was in Komite Moris Losean Indyen ek Front National Soutien aux Ilois, gave an historic outline of the past struggles, while Pynee Chellarpermal led a group which looked at the imperialist manoevres vis-à-vis Islands of the Mauritian Republic, while suggesting different forms of political representation that address these problems.

Guest speakers from abroad included Wilbert van der Zeiden who is experienced in struggles world-wide for base closure, called for using the United Nations De-colonization mechanisms, in addition to mobilization to base closure. He outlined the pressures on the US to close its bases. John Percy, speaking for the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Australia, pointed to the dangers of imperial powers when they are economically weakened but still militarily very strongly, like the US is today. Penny Duggan of the Fourth International spoke of the political and social movements in Europe, particularly in France, as the economic crisis provokes mass uprisings.

Former Vice President of the University of Mauritius, Vinesh Hookoomsing, was the only speaker who was not very forceful at all. He pleaded, amongst other things, for people to be “understanding” of scientists who are interested in protecting “corals”. From the floor, Rajni Lallah, challenged him saying the least we can expect from scientists is that they are “in good enough” faith to call for the polluting nuclear base on Chagos to be closed down, given that they love “corals” and “fish” so much, and even though we criticize them for not caring about the people exiled from the Islands, nor the colonization through the illegal British Indian Ocean Territories.

The Conference was given intellectual and emotional depth by outstanding contribution made by artists. Visual artists, Krishna Luchoomun and Gerard Foy and a group of their students, did a creative and moving “event” in the Mother Earth Hall at Grand River, symbolizing the armed forces invasion of Diego Garcia, while Menwar sang in a tough and poignant song that the US should remove all its “kuyonad”, and get out. Joelle Hossenee, accompanied by Rajni Lallah, gave a heart-rending performance of “Lamer mo pei” in which the people and the land are torn apart in a song composed by Rajni. Daniella Bastien performed a slam poem, accompanied by her ravann, on a few words on paper, perhaps refering to the Orders in Council. Richard Beaugendre sang two songs in Mauritian Kreol influenced by the best of French protest singers, accompanied by fine guitar work. The intriguing installation out of coconuts, made by Nirmal Hurry and his students, was a continued feature of the Conference, while the painting by Jean-Claude Baissac, “Les Fantomes des Chagos”, a gift made to LALIT on the occasion of the Conference, was a constant reminder of the violence done to Diego Garcia and the whole of Chagos and its people. Stephanie Theodore and Ashish Beesoondial gave a tender, yet anguished, reading from Lindsey Collen’s MUTINY. Three outstanding films, by John Pilger, Peadar King and David Constantin, were viewed, and referred to in plenary sessions. There was also the screening of a “court metrage” by Ryan Kistnasamy, aged eleven, on the 2010 LALIT demonstration against the colonialist “Marine Protected Area”. Yannick Jeanne’s moving reading of the poem, “A Seed”, brought Palestine on to the agenda, as this subject often was during the Conference. The Tai Chi demonstration of “Form 24” by the highly skilled practitioners, Jean France Suprayen and Alain Ah-Vee, posed in art-form the power of concentration and restraint in struggles against oppression; the fact that the two Tai Chi practitioners are from two different Tai Chi schools, meant that their performance was particularly powerful, showing the inner latent strength of each individual and of the collective.

An exhibition on the Diego Garcia and Chagos struggle was prepared on four stands, which were placed on the verandah and in the Kiosk. During tea and coffee breaks, participants studied them in detail.

It must be put on record that both Olivier Bancoult of the Chagos Refugees Group and Fernand Mandarin of the Comite Social Chagossien had formally agreed to speak at the LALIT International Conference. Both were not present, however. Both had mentioned a few days earlier that they had responsibilities concerning a respective relative who was ill, but neither actually presented apologies for his absence.

There were over 30 messages of support from all over the world, witnessing very high degrees of understanding of the issues involved as well as support for the struggles (see list below).

The Conference Declaration, the “Declaration of Grande Riviere” voted on the final day of the Conference includes reference to the need to dismantle the illegal British Indian Ocean Territories, from which the Seychelles has already sucessfully extricated its Islands, the need to for the US to close the base down and effect a clean-up, and the need for the right of return for all Chagossians to all the Islands of their birth, without having to accept being colonized. Specific strategies are proposed to the State of Mauritius, as well as adopted by the participants in the Conference.

 Some of the messages...

Message of Support from NPAR

Reunion Island , 28th October 2010

Dear people of the Chagos Islands,
Dear Delegates,

We, from the NPAR, regret not to be among you for this conference. Our regional geographical position, our common past history and our views on how politics should be carried out in the Indian Ocean lead us to reaffirm with the greatest strength that :

- we consider that the Chagos Islands were acquired illegally by the United Kingdom (UK) with the complicity of the Mauritian Government in 1965.
- we denounce with the utmost force the agreement settled between the British government and the U.S government allowing the illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands by the U.S military forces.
- we denounce the deportation of the Chagossians and we consider it as a crime against humanity.
- we denounce the military use of the Chagos Islands allowing the U.S military forces to bomb Iraq or Afghanistan thus bringing death to thousand of innocent civilians from a peaceful land formerly populated by peaceful people.
- we denounce the ecological cost paid by the Chagossian Islands in order to set up U.S military infrastructures.

Considering all those facts, the NPAR once more reaffirms that the occupation is illegal, So we just have two words to tell the American forces : GO HOME ! ! ! (pause)


We solemnly ask General-Secretary of the UNO, Ban Ki-Moon to :
- firmly and officially condemn the illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands and to get really involved in resolving the problem of those territories in order to make the U.S soldiers pack up before December 2016.
- recognize the harm done to generations of Chagossians and their right to return to THEIR land and of course obtain the corresponding compensation even if we consider that there is no price for such a great tragedy ! ! !

- set up a calendar for the withdrawal of the U.S forces and the re-installation of the survivors of the past deportation, or their descendants, in December 2016, date corresponding to the end of the British lease of the Chagos Islands to American forces.

- start legal action to condemn both the UK and the USA in order to make them pay for the destruction done to the islands and to the environment.

We ask the Mauritian government to consider the Chagossian people with much more empathy and urgently improve their living conditions here.

We also ask the Mauritian authorities to put all its willingness and all its weight to back the Chagossian people in their fight to return to their land

We encourage the UNO and the so-called Western Democracies to abandon their traditional and old-fashioned colonial and political approaches to the region FOR THE SAKE OF JUSTICE FOR THE CHAGOSSIANS.



Message of Support from Tachikawa, Japan

We support LALIT’s demand that the occupation of Chagos Islands be ended and Chagossians be given the right to return. The US is ruling the world by establishing a network of military bases and mobilising other governments for an endless “war on terror.” In Japan, farmers have been robbed of their land to make room for new military bases, and people who live near the bases have suffered from the risk of accident and heavy noise. We are residents of Tachikawa, Tokyo, where people successfully launched a city-wide struggle against the expansion of a US military base in the 1950s. To our regret, the site is now utilised by the Japanese army. But our struggle to fight against it is unstoppable. We can win a victory unless we give up. Even a British court gave a ruling that the expulsion of Chagossians was illegal. Let’s keep on struggling together.

Tachikawa Tent-mura Monitoring Military Base

Message from Action Committee against US-Japan Security Pact

We are a peace group that was founded to fight against the US-Japan Security Pact. The treaty has allowed the continuous stationing of US forces in Japan despite the end of the US occupation after the World War II. The situation in Okinawa, an archipelago that used to form a kingdom with unique culture, is notorious. The US military has kept on reigning over the populace after many of them were killed in the Battle of Okinawa. Many people were excluded violently from the land they had inherited, and have been suffered from noise and US soldiers’ crime. Besides, they are forced to be part of aggressions by the US forces. Let’s struggle together to achieve a world free from US bases and to reclaim our land for life and production.

Action Committee against US-Japan Security Pact

Message of Support from US Peace Council


October 1, 2010

To the LALIT International Conference
Port Louis, Mauritius

Dear Friends:

We greet you, in solidarity, as you come together to broadcast to the world the continued
determination of the Chagossian people, as Mauritian citizens, to return to their homeland.
We applaud your struggle, an inspring lesson to the international movement for global peace and justice, for end to the illegal occupation of the Chaigos Islands, for closure of the Diego Garcia Military Base, an outpost of US imperialism and for national independence and sovereignty.

It is at this time of deep global economic crisis that imperialism reveals its weakness. Wars, conflicts and the militarization of the economies are taking their toll on the people with poverty, unemployment, hunger, disease affecting us everywhere. 44 million people in the United States live in poverty. That does not include the children. Yet, the US spends US 1 Trillion Dollars this year on war and the military. Our struggle for jobs, for food, clothing and shelter must include your struggle to close the US base at Diego Garcia. It is one struggle, yours and ours; two sides of the same coin: the struggle against US and British imperialism.
We recognize that we have the responsibility to bring your struggle to the American people. The Mauritian people are victims, just as the people here, of US policies of aggression.

We salute you, Brothers and Sisters, as you gather together in conference.

Yours in Peace,

Alfred L. Marder
US Peace Council

Message from Antiwar Working Group of Solidarity, USA

As dedicated antiwar activists in the USA we salute your ’International Conference for Action to Close the Diego Garcia Military Base’—taking place October 30 - November 2nd in Port Louis, Mauritius. The antiwar movement in our country has long stood for the elimination of all US military bases abroad and the return of US troops stationed in foreign territories. As dedicated anti-imperialists, we in Solidarity also believe in the right to self determination of peoples who are oppressed/displaced by imperialism everywhere on the planet.

The criminal wars waged by recent US administrations in both Iraq and Afghanistan only underline the fact that military activities of a kind facilitated by the Diego Garcia base play no role whatsoever in protecting peace or security—either in those countries which the US invades or here in the USA itself. US military intervention abroad is about nothing except protecting the profits of US corporations and making the world safe for imperial exploitation.

Thank you for holding this conference and we look forward to a report on its result.

Steve Bloom
Signed: Antiwar Working Group of Solidarity—a socialist, feminist, antiracist organization in the USA.

Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation sends solidarity to LALIT conference

Message of Support

The tragedy of the people of Diego Garcia is that your Islands were ‘bought’ and then ‘leased’ by the British Government to the United States for the creation of an impregnable military fortress. In 1971, the Chagossians were forcibly removed from their homes and compelled to seek refuge elsewhere in Mauritius or further afield. Ever since, you have asserted your right to return to your homes. Yet, at every turn, the British Government has sought to frustrate your attempts to secure legal redress.

The wider world shares in your tragedy, not only because the Chagossians are denied their basic rights, but also because Diego Garcia has become the source of extraordinary violence meted out by the US military forces stationed there. The bombardment of Iraq was carried out, in significant part, by aircraft flying from Diego Garcia. It is the ‘lily pad’ from which the United States launched its ‘shock and awe’ attacks on Baghdad.

Nuclear submarines and other US naval vessels make extensive use of the Island’s facilities, facilitating their operations in the wider Indian Ocean. They also play their part on ‘shock and awe’ bombardments.

Are nuclear weapons stored on Diego Garcia? Surely the facilities should be inspected to ensure there is no breach of the Pelindaba Treaty for an Africa Free of Nuclear Arms, which entered into force in 2009.

The secret practice of extraordinary rendition, sometimes for extended periods of torture, of persons kidnapped during the US prosecution of its ‘war on terror’, following the attacks on the United States in September 2001, also makes use of Diego Garcia. For a long time, the British Government tried to deny the persistent allegations that prisoners were transited through Diego Garcia or held there. In 2008, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Torture, Manfred Nowak, said he had received credible evidence from well-placed sources familiar with the situation on the island that detainees were held on Diego Garcia between 2002 and 2003. Eventually, in 2008, after years of denials, the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, admitted that two prisoners had been rendered through Diego Garcia, despite previous US assurances that this never happened. Who else has been held on and rendered through Diego Garcia, what happened to them there, and where are they now?

For all these reasons and more, your historic conference is welcome in Mauritius, around the Indian Ocean, and in the wider world. The ‘lease’ must not be renewed; the Chagossians shall return. We wish you every success, and keenly await news of your deliberations. Do, please, keep us informed of what happens.

Tony Simpson Ken Fleet
The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation

20 October 2010

Solidarity message from writer and film-maker John Pilger

"Justice for the people of the Chagos is one of those rare issues about which there are no ’ifs’ and ’buts’. Never in my lifetime have the rights and demands of people been clearer. And the people of the Chagos and their supporters are remarkable. They have fought back tenaciously and courageously, and they will win — I have no doubt about that.

Yes, sometimes it seems the world never changes, that great power is invincible; but the world is always changing and the great power that denies justice to the Chagossians and despoils their homeland is rotten at the heart.
It is time for all freedom-loving peoples to stand up for the return of the Chagos — Mauritians, British, Americans. A victory for the Chagos will be a victory for every one of us."

best as ever


Support from Socialist Resistance UK

To the comrades of LALIT

From Socialist Resistance UK

Re: conference on October 30th.

Unfortunately we have not been able to send a representative to your conference which starts on October 30th. We would never-the-less like to declare our full and active support for the cause for which you are fighting: the closure of the Diego Garcia military base, the end of the illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands and the right of return for the Chagossian people. We are aware of the role of successive British Governments in these injustices and want to be a part of your ongoing campaign against them. Please keep us informed of all aspects of your campaigning, particularly regarding activity in Britain. We will do all we can to support your activity and initiatives.

In solidarity

Alan Thornett (For Socialist resistance)

Support from Anti-Privatization Forum in South Africa


 Dale Mckinley

Socialist Worker New Zealand supports LALIT’s Conference

Kia ora comrades,

Socialist Worker - New Zealand is pleased and proud to support this conference to close the Diego Garcia Military Base and allow the Chagossian people to return to their homes.

Imperialism means that the interests of big countries and big business ride roughshod over the very lives of ordinary people all over the world. What happened to the people of Diego Garcia is only one of a long litany of dispossessions of indigenous and working people of their land, livelihood and property. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, the Maori people’s land and taonga (treasures) have also been subject to rapatu (confiscation).

Socialist Worker - New Zealand wishes the very best of luck to Lalit Mauritius, to all the delegates to this conference, and to the Chagossian people.

Kia kaha,

Grant Morgan

International secretary
Socialist Worker - New Zealand

People of Vicenza, Italy, where there is US base in support

Ai membri del LALIT, alle donne ed agli uomini Chagossians deportati dalla To the members of LALIT, to the women and men of Chagos Islands deported from their land, to everyone attending to the International Conference for Action to Close the Diego Garcia Military Base, October 30th – November 2nd 2010.

Dear all,

many citizens of Vicenza (Italy) have had the opportunity to know, at least in part, about the terrible tragedy suffered for decades by the Chagossians because of the military base in Diego Garcia.

In September 2009, during the “No Dal Molin Festival”, we had the honor and pleasure to host in Vicenza:
Mrs Marie Sabrina Jean, Chairwoman of the Chagos Refugees Group in UK , and
Mr David Vine, author of the book “Island of Shame - The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia”.

On that occasion we understood from Sabrina’s voice the story of the pain suffered in the past and even today by thousands of Chagossians.
We heard about the sufferings of a population that cannot step onto his own land because of the military imperialism wanting to keep under control the whole world.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of communities suffering for this same problem, on every continent.

The population of Vicenza, victim of the imposition of a second US military base on his territory, feel strongly close to the Chagossian brothers and sisters and to all the participants of this conference.

Vital and basic elements like air, water and land were taken away from the people of Vicenza to give space to the US military. Just like in Diego Garcia, Okinawa, Guam, Jeju Island and many other places.

Even in Vicenza, the Italian and US Governments decided in secret, ignoring all opposition to the project of this new base by the greatest majority of population.
The Italian Government has been acting, and still acts, as a servant of the US Government for economic interests and theoretical political benefits.

Resources like water, air and land don’t have a price.
Every country, every community has the right and responsibility to defend and protect them, for today and for future generations.

It’s important for all communities in struggle and in suffering to be connected with each other, to support each other, to make their own story known.
Knowledge is the main enemy of Governors and the main aid to populations.

We are with you,
for the closing of the military base in Diego Garcia,
for the return of the Chagossians to their own Islands,
for the respect of the vital resources,
for the closing of all the US military bases in the world.

In solidarity and friendship,

the women and the men of the No Dal Molin Movement in Vicenza, Italy.

Vicenza, October 27th, 2010

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